Monday, June 28, 2010

Korni Bread

Yaey look at my pretty BBB badge!

I remember when Lynn first joined the Bread Baking Babes (a group that bakes the chosen bread every month). I admired her and her bread baking skills, and part of me wanted to join in because it's always fun to be a part of those bake along groups, but the other part of me was so scared of kneading. But now that I've gotten over that fear, I couldn't wait for Lynn to post the next BBB bread so I could bake it and join them! Silly me, I left it until the last day, so I won't get to taste the bread until tomorrow. But it looks good and I love how it's so full of all different grains and things like rye flour, whole wheat flour, flax seeds, millet (at least I think I added millet - hard to tell between amaranth and millet in my unlabeled jars!) and roasted soy beans. The only thing I didn't do was put the milk/egg glaze. As nice as that glaze is, I hate using up an egg for it so I usually just brush water on. I can't wait to find out what the next months' bread is!

Update: I thought yesterday was the 29th (the last day to post about the bread) but that's today! Oops. Anyway this morning I put the bread out to take photos and left the room for a minute. Then I came back to Abby licking the bread! Cat approved. The bread is really yummy and I'm in love with the chewy and dense yet soft texture. I wish I hadn't flattened the loaf so much though as now I have these really long slices and I'm not sure what container I can put them in!

Adapted from Joe Ortiz' The Village Baker

(makes 1 round 3 1/2 pound loaf)

Korni means corn or grain. It is made from a combination of grains that go well together for flavor, crunchiness, and good nutrition.

Soy bean mixture
1/2 cup organic (dried) soy beans
1 cup boiling water

1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons; 1/4 oz) active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 cup organic rye flour
1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups organic unbleached white (or all-purpose) flour

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
All of the starter from the previous step
3 cups organic, unbleached white (or all-purpose) flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground caraway seeds*
1/4 cup organic flax seeds
1/2 cup organic millet
All of the soy mixture

Prepare the soy beans:
Place them in a small bowl, cover them with the boiling water, and let them soak for 10 minutes. Drain the beans and let them cool. Process the beans in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until they roughly chopped.

Place the beans on a cookie sheet and roast them in a preheated 350°F oven between 15 and 20 minutes, until they are completely dried out. Set them aside.

Prepare the sponge/poolish:
First proof the yeast, in a large bowl, in 1 cup of the warm water. When it is creamy, mix in 1 1/4 cups warm water and slowly add the rye flour, whole wheat flour, and 1½ cups of white flour by handfuls while stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon.
Set the batter aside, in a large bowl, covered with a dish towel, for between 8 and 10 hours or overnight.

Make the dough:
Proof the yeast in the warm water, add it to the risen sponge, and mix the two together. Start adding the flour, handful by handful, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. After all but 1 cup of the flour has been added (this will take about 10 minutes), turn the dough out onto your worktable, sprinkle the salt and the ground caraway over the dough, and incorporate them by kneading the dough for about 5 minutes while adding the last of the flour. The dough should be very moist.

Add the flax seeds, millet, and roasted soy beans and knead the dough to incorporate them.
Set the dough aside, covered, to rise for 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.

Flatten out the dough again and then shape it into a round loaf. This loaf is best proofed in a canvas-lined basket (I used a large bowl sprayed with baking spray) and then baked on a baking stone in the oven. It can also be placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let the loaf rise for about 1 1/2 hours.

Glaze the loaf with water and bake it in a preheated 425°F oven for between 30 and 35 minutes.

Let the loaf cool on a wire rack.

*(to make your own, grind a few tablespoons of whole caraway seed in a mortar with a pestle until you have a fine powder. If your powder still contains large chunks of seed, sift the mixture and use 1 tablespoon of the sifted powder)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Noreen Kinney's Irish Soda Bread

I was sitting in class one day and suddenly became obsessed with the idea of making Irish soda bread - which I've never made before and it was about time! So I started looking up recipes on Epicurious and came across this serious gem of a recipe. It's full of so much good stuff like wheat bran, oat bran and wheat germ (the 3 ingredients I have trouble finding recipes that use significant quantities of so I always seem to have giant stockpiles of it that I'm trying to use up). And it also has flaxseeds and my most favourite seed of all, sunflower seeds. The bread tastes buttery (yum!), though there are only 3 tablespoons of butter in the whole recipe. Instead of making one big round, I made them drop scone style. This proved to be a very brilliant idea. I always freeze my baked goods, so when I would reheat these in the toaster oven, the crust got all nice and crisp while the insides were still soft. So incredibly addictive.

Apparently what people think of as Irish soda bread, made with white flour and raisins, is actually called Irish spotted dick (or dog). Traditional Irish soda bread is supposed to be more hearty, like this one is, with different types of grains. I loved this bread so much and would always want to have it in my freezer. It's perfect for eating with soup or salad or jam or cheese or anything really. I often just ate it by itself!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pecan Fruit Rye Bread
Buttermilk Honey Bread
Oatmeal Knots

Noreen Kinney's Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Epicurious | March 2008, from A Baker's Odyssey

Makes about 12-15 little loaves (see original recipe above for instructions on making 1 big loaf)

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour or graham flour, plus more for shaping (I used whole wheat flour)
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup untoasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons flaxseed
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 large egg
About 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (I used milk+vinegar)

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare 2 baking sheets.

In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the fat particles are very fine. Stir in the baking soda, salt, sugar, wheat bran, oat bran, wheat germ, flaxseed, and sunflower seeds.

Beat the egg lightly with a fork in a 2-cup glass measure. Add enough buttermilk to come to the 2-cup line and stir with the fork to combine well. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the dough gathers into a thick, wet-looking mass.

Use an ice cream/cookie scoop or a measuring cup to drop 1/3 cup amounts onto the prepared baking sheets. Don't be concerned about evenness—the loaf should look rustic. Make a cross-shaped indentation on top of each loaf going right to the edges. Use a plastic bench scraper and press it into the dough very gently; don't actually cut the dough. During baking the indentation expands, giving the top of the loaf an attractive pattern.

Bake the bread for about 15-17 minutes, until it is well browned and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom. Cool the loaves on a wire cooling rack, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flatbread with Caramelized Onions and Brie

I made this caramelized onion and brie flatbread as part of mother's day dinner (which was actually brunch food, because brunch food is the best). My mom made some comment about how she usually doesn't like caramelized onions, or maybe it was regular onions, but she really liked this. Who doesn't like caramelized onions?! Crazy. I think we all really enjoyed this flatbread though. It was my first time using frozen puff pastry (and in my last post I admitted to using store bought lemon curd - what's happening to me?!) I expected the puff pastry to be more crisp (as the recipe states it would be) but it was actually quite soft and floppy - which makes sense because croissants are basically puff pastry, right? Which I actually still have (homemade!) some of in my freezer from when I made croissants about a year ago, and I should probably throw out.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cheddar & Dill Beer Bread Rolls
Croissant Pockets with Apricots and Brie
Mushroom Crescents
Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins

Flatbread with Caramelized Onions and Brie
Adapted from The Rest of the Best and More (From the Best of Bridge Series, Vol. 2

4 small (or 3 large) onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
14 oz (397 g) package frozen puff pastry
6 oz (170 g) brie (rind removed), diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan on medium-high, add onions; cook until wilted and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 15-25 minutes, until onions are caramelized and golden. Cool.

Puff pastry package has 2 pouches. Pinch both together and roll out to a 12"x16" (30cmx40cm) rectangle. Place pastry on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Spread onions over pastry. Dot with cheese. Sprinkle with parsley and refrigerate if not baking immediately.

Bake in preheated 400F oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and pastry is crisp. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut into 20 squares.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Braided Lemon Bread

After I saw this braided lemon bread on Smitten Kitchen, I couldn't get it out of my head. And I'm glad I didn't because it is stupendous. Completely gorgeous, not even difficult to make, so very delicious and extremely adaptable to whatever jam or filling you want to have.

I loved this filling of lemon curd and cream cheese. And no I did not make that neon yellow lemon curd, I bought it, which is a first for me. There's nothing wrong with taking short cuts in recipes but I always feel like I need to make curds from scratch. Except this time where I just wanted to get right to making the braid as soon as possible!

I'm really looking forward to trying different jams and fillings. Oh maybe a chocolate peanut butter filling?! Or pear and brie. Or feta and sun dried tomato and olives. Maybe this dough would be too sweet as is (with 1/4 cup sugar) for savoury applications, but I imagine it would be okay to reduce the sugar to 2 tbsp or something?

Please excuse the poorly lit photos I took in my kitchen of the process (seen below throughout the recipe) - our kitchen is in the back of the apartment near no windows. But I always like seeing the process of making baked goods and am especially in love with yeast bread process photos so had to share! And as you can tell I was completely obsessed with this bread so took tons of photos.

Also, I just discovered this fun website YeastSpotting. Where you can submit yeasted bread recipes you've made and then at the end of each week they compile a list (with pictures)! Very fun and a great place to get inspired for my next bread.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Hot Crossed Buns
Croissant Pockets with Apricots and Brie
Milk Chocolate Cherry Twist

Braided Lemon Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from King Arthur Flour

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup (1 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour

Sponge (above)
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 teaspoon water for brushing bread
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Lemon cream cheese filling
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup lemon curd

Make sponge: In a small bowl, stir together the sponge ingredients.Loosely cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass. Switch to the dough hook and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until quite puffy and nearly doubled.

Make the filling (while dough rises): Combine all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl, mixing until smooth and lump-free.

Prepare bread: Gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a very well floured counter to a 10″ x 15″ rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper. With the side of your hand, lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread the lemon curd over the cream cheese filling.

To form the mock braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of you dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal amount of 1-inch strips down the right and left sides. Be careful not to cut your parchment paper; if you have a bench scraper, this is a great time to use it. Remove the four corner segments. To “braid”, begin by folding top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the top dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating strips until you are out. You can tuck the last couple that hand off decoratively under the end of the braid.

Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes, until quite puffy.

Bake bread: Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the loaves with egg wash, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pad Thai & 3 Years of Blogging

I keep on missing my blog birthday! About three years ago on June 3, I started this blog. Who knows how long I'll continue blogging for but I still love it and I'm so happy to be part of the food blog world.

I love pad thai and while I'm not going to be crazy and say that I've found the perfect recipe, this one comes as close as any recipe I've tried. I'm sure we all have some preferences about whether we want it more wet or dry or tomatoey or not. But this one is just right for me. The important parts of pad thai for me are that it's got enough tomato, extra lime before serving, and crunchy peanuts. If you have a good pad thai recipe, please share it with me - I'd love to test it against this one!

Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes has started a new blog called The Food Blog Diary to keep track of what food events are going on, which I know I'll find really helpful because I always seem to be finding out about things too late! So go check it out.

Some of you might recognize Abby's newest "toy" - the cat emery board, as seen on TV. We bought it from one of those stores that sells all the stuff from infomercials naively hoping that it would actually help keep her claws trimmed. Sadly she's barely used it, but she did enjoy the toy that was stuck into the side of it, which you can see her playing with here.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Tofu and Broccolini in Peanut Sauce
Szechuan Tofu Triangles in Triple Pepper Sauce
Fresh Pear and Curry Pasta
Peanut Sauce

Pad Thai
Adapted from ExtraVeganZa

Serves 5-6

2 tbsp rice vinegar
5 tbsp reduce sodium soy sauce
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup ketchup

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb firm tofu, cut into small cubes
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups carrots, sliced (original recipe uses sweet potato which take too long to cook)
1 red pepper, diced
1 broccoli crown
1 cup (1 can) water chestnuts, sliced
1/2 lb rice noodles, cooked and drained

2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed (plus more for serving as desired)
2/3 cup peanuts, toasted and chopped
1/4-1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped

In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, peanut butter and ketchup. Stir together thoroughly and set the sauce aside.

In a wok, add olive oil and saute the tofu, garlic, ginger, chili, salt and carrots for several minutes, stirring frequently to prevent them from sticking to the pan. When the carrots begin to soften, stir in the red pepper, broccoli and water chestnuts. Continue sauteeing for several minutes, then pour in the prepared sauce and cooked noodles. Gently stir the noodles into the vegetables and sauce. Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Garnish with toasted peanuts and green onions.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Grandma Jennie's Date and Nut Bread

A month or so ago we went to visit my grandparents, who I unfortunately don't get to see very often because where they live requires a few hours to get to (including an hour and a half ferry ride). I wanted to bake something so that my family would have something to eat on our trip over and throughout the day, and also to have something to give to my grandparents. So this bread/loaf was perfect for that because it makes 2 loaves - one for us and one for them. (And why do people always call loaves breads?? If there's no yeast in it, it's not a bread! At least that's how I think. Though I just noticed I have a tag on my blog for "breads/loaves" so obviously I'm getting sucked in too.)

I'm not a big dried fruit person and in particular don't really like dates, but I've had some good date loaves and date bars, and my mom loves dates so I went with this date and nut bread (loaf!!!) And I also have the largest stockpile of dates ever for some reason so it was good to use some of them up. The loaf turned out really well - moist, yummy, and everyone loved it. I like lots of spices so next time I would add more. Oh and despite using 2/3 whole wheat flour (and 1/3 all purpose), you can't tell at all that it's mostly whole wheat.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Garden Harvest Cake
Mom's Banana Apple Bread
bill's Coconut Bread
Pumpkin Bread

Grandma Jennie's Date and Nut Bread
Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

Makes 2 loaves

1 pound pitted dates, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 tsp grated navel orange zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (lightly packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups walnuts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 350F. Generously butter two 8"x4" loaf pans, and line the bottoms with baking parchment.

2. Place the dates in a bowl. Stir in the boiling water and the baking soda. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and allspice. Set aside.

4. Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the orange zest and mix on medium speed until lightened in colour, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat for about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary and mix for 1 minute longer.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each addition, then blend in the vanilla. Scrape down the side of the bowl.

6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the date mixture, diving the flour into three parts and the dates into two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using an oversize spatula, fold in the walnuts.

7. Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans and bake for 50-60 minutes. The bread is done when it's firm to the touch, the sides begin to release, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Remove from the oven and let cool on racks for about 20 minutes. Invert each bread onto a rack and gently lift off the pans and the parchment. Turn the breads right side up and let cool.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Carrot Slices in Dill Sauce (Gajar Suva)

I haven't gone back to 660 Curries for a while so one night decided to make a couple of recipes from it. Unfortunately I didn't really like the other one I tried (black eyed peas with mustard, cumin and curry leaves) but that might be due to the fact that I don't like black eyed peas? But I really liked this carrot and pea dish. As with the other recipes I've tried from this book, it was really flavourful and well spiced.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Indian Stir Fried Cabbage
Pink Beans with a Cardamom-Yogurt Sauce
Curried Mushrooms and Peas
Spicy Indian Chickpeas/Chana Masala

Carrot Slices in Dill Sauce (Gajar Suva)
Adapted from 660 Curries

1 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 lb carrots, peeled, ends trimmed, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup frozen green peas (no need to thaw)
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp chickpea flour
1/2 tsp salt

1. Heat the oil in a medium size skillet over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds. Immediately add the onion and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook slowly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns soft and brown with a deep purple hue, 10 to 12 minutes.

2. Stir in the coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. The heat will be just right to cook but not burn the ground spices, about 30 seconds.

3. Add the carrots, peas, and 2 cups water. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer the vegetables, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they are fork-tender and the sauce is somewhat thick, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Stir in the dill, chickpea flour, and salt. The flour will instantly thicken the sauce. Then serve.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cream Cheese Pound Cake + Strawberry Sauce

One weekend I got it in my head that I wanted to make trifle. I think because the weekend before, my dad had been talking about what an amazing trifle my grandma makes and how people are always sad when she doesn't make it. So I called her to get her recipe but as it turns out there isn't really a recipe. She told me to just use whatever cake you want to get rid of or pick up from the grocery store. She usually uses canned fruit, and mixes the juice from the can with a bit of alcohol (again she said whatever you want to get rid of - are we seeing a theme here?) and pours it over the cake. And then she said she uses pudding mix. And puts whipped cream on top. Oh and she also mixes jello in with the fruit and cake once it's been layered. The details are a bit fuzzy now, but basically there was no exact recipe. So I just decided to pick a cream cheese pound cake, a white chocolate custard, and the strawberry sauce I've made a few times that my fiance (who I will refer to from now on as E) really likes.

Individually, all the components were really good. The pound cake was so perfectly pound cake-y - really dense and wonderful and you can taste the cream cheese. And it was so soft. The white chocolate custard was adapted from a bittersweet chocolate custard and I didn't adjust the sugar enough so it was way too sweet - especially when combined with the strawberry sauce. The strawberry sauce was perfect though and is good for everything. So I'll share with you the recipe for the cream cheese pound cake and the strawberry sauce and will save the white chocolate custard for when I try again and it turns out better.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Tres Leches Cake
Sour Cream Doughnuts
Strawberry Cream Cake
Orange Cream Cheese Muffins

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted liberally from Staff Meals from Chanterelle

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 package (4 ounces) Philadelphia brand cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter an 8"x4" pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, increase the speed to high, and beat until light and airy, at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the vanilla, then the flour and salt all at once. Beat just until incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and shake lightly to even out the top. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 hours.

4. Place the pan on a cake rack and cool for 20 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Strawberry Sauce
Adapted from All Recipes (Heislord5)

1 pint (454 g) strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut about strawberries in 1/2-1 inch size pieces. In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine strawberries, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Store in refrigerator.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Greek Barley Salad

Main course grain salads are one of my favourite meals and I loved that this salad was so flavourful and full of many of my favourite things - feta, grape tomatoes, basil, onions, pine nuts, lemon, Kalamata olives. Actually this salad was the turning point for me and olives. When I was younger, I hated olives as I think many of us did. Then I got used to the black sliced olives they put on sandwiches and pizza. Which lead to eating the olive that they put with Greek salads in restauants. BUT, I just realized how delicious Kalamata olives are. Yes I know they're the olives that are on Greek salads, but for some reason I didn't develop a full obsession until I bought a jar for this salad. Usually I buy the cheapest brand of canned olives, not really noticing or thinking there would be a difference compared to more expensive or fresher olives. But I decided to buy this fancy jar of olives and oh wow. Definitely worth it. When I took this salad for lunch, I would add a couple of extra olives on top. So very delicious.

So as I was saying, this salad is delicious. The only bad thing about it is that it was too "wet", which I think was due both to the yogurt in the dressing (which I'd likely omit next time) and the barley not being properly drained after cooking. I'd also add less barley next time as I like my dishes more filled with vegetables. And I'd highly recommend using whatever your favourite grain is in this salad (or whatever grain you have in your cupboard). The original recipe uses wheat berries (which are chewy and so yummy) but I had some barley to use up so went with that. Also, I thought a mix of oregano and basil would be better than just basil - but I was wrong. The oregano made the salad taste kind of weird on day 2 and on so next time I'll just stick to basil or maybe dried oregano.

I took this photo on my iPhone so it's a bit blurry but look at her fluffiness!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Dill and Lemon
Autumn Panzanella
French Barley Salad

Greek Barley Salad
Adapted from Phoo-D

Serves 4-6 as a Main Course, 10-12 as a Side Salad

2 cups pot barley (next time I'd use 1 1/2 cups)
4 cups water
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped + brine from jar (used below)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 roasted red bell peppers, chopped into bite size pieces
1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup basil leaves, julienned (I used a mix of basil & oregano, about 1/4 cup total but would recommend using just basil)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons "brine" from Kalamata olive jar (can be increased to taste)
1/2 cup 2% plain yogurt (next time I'd likely omit this)
Juice of the zested lemon
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Rinse barley under cool water and then drain. Place barley and 4 cups of water into a medium pot. Place the pot over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, and cover the pot with a lid. Cook the barley, stirring occasionally, for 60-90 minutes or until tender (but not mushy). Once the barley is cooked, drain off any remaining water, and transfer the barley to a large (8-10 cup capacity) bowl. (Make sure you drain the barley really well.)

While the barley is cooking, place a small saucepan over low heat and add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, red onion, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Slowly cook the onion, stirring occasionally until it is softened and a light brown color. This will take about 40-60 minutes. Once the onion is caramelized, remove the saucepan from the heat and set the onions aside to cool.

Add the lemon zest, Kalamata olives, garlic, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, feta, and pine nuts into the large bowl with the wheat berries. Gently mix the ingredients together with a spoon to combine.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, "brine" from the Kalamata olive jar, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Once the dressing is well mixed, pour it over the salad and stir until all ingredients are well coated. Taste the salad and add more salt and pepper if necessary. (Much like rice, the wheat berries will require a decent amount of salt for the flavor to shine through.) Serve the salad as is or plate on top of fresh spinach and garnish with additional feta cheese, tomatoes, and basil.

Salad can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored covered in the fridge. Bring to room temperature and mix well before serving.